Wednesday, April 12, 2006
For some reason, music gets good in springtime. Songs have more hope. They inspire huge flights of fancy and big dumb projects that either flop miserably or change your whole life.
We all have springtime songs from the past that just do it for us.And that'e the next best thing about spring, apart from the weather: it gives meaning to a whole new batch of music.
By the spring of 1988, my relationship with the trombone was officially on the rocks. It was the silliest instrument the sixth-grade band had to pick from, which made it a major plus when I chose it that fall, and I figured that since I didn’t have to learn any complex fingering, it would be that much easier to learn. Boy, was I ever wrong. It turned out that you had to actually be good at the trombone to do all of the fun stuff with it, and getting good meant practicing, which I was definitely not into.
I was too busy caring about breakdancing and drawing my own Super Carrot comics to pick up the trombone like my parents forced me to, five days a week for half an hour a day. Christmas vacation had been a nightmare of parentally mandated two-hour practice sessions to make up for all my lost time. One can neglect ones’ homework pretty quietly, but the sound of a kid not practicing his trombone is aggressively inaudible.
By the time the spring concert started rolling around, things were getting pretty heavy between me, my dad and the trombone. My dad was of the opinion that once you commit to something, you see it through... a good lesson for a growing boy. However, he was also determined not to be the father of the kid who screwed up the band’s spring concert. There was no explaining to him that no matter how little I practiced, there were plenty of kids in the band than I did.
The thing about being in the sixth grade is that these tiny things with tremendous implications that change your whole life happen every day, and you barely notice them. I felt the full weight of this transformation the moment it happened, and I’ve been fully aware of it ever since.
I was polishing off the back end of an old chocolate rabbit during a little break before settling into the onerous business of learning some Bach, when I decided to flip on the radio. Terence Trent D’Arby was on his way out, and the DJ’s faux-breathless voice kicked in. I was so young, I couldn’t tell his voice was a beard for his boredom... I got a little excited every time the DJ said anything. But that night, what he said helped change my whole thing…
“Now, debuting at number one in tonight’s Hot Eight at Eight: Def Leppard’s 'Pour Some Sugar on Me'!!”
The opening chords and steady, relentless beat poured out of my amp and right into my tiny prelibidinal mind. I didn’t know what was happening, who was in charge anymore, or which way was up. All I knew was that from now on, things would be different. My second instinct, following the urge to crank the radio (which I did) was to grab the nearest instrument and try to catch this amazing, rockin’ wave.
I blew my hardest, pumping the slide of the trombone in rhythm to the drums while mimicking the lyrics' rhythm with my breath. I had never heard that song before, and as I mentioned previously, I sucked at the trombone. All that pent-up frustration, all that sixth-grade springtime energy just flew, unchecked, out of my lungs, around the golden loops of the horn and right into the living room to willingly, achingly, pour some sonic sugar onto Joe Elliott’s rockin’ creation.
My dad came into the room and turned the radio down. He looked at me with total confusion and said, “Jeffrey. I may regret saying this later, as it totally contradicts all that I stand for. But your mother and I would love it if you would stop playing the trombone tonight.”
So I'm curious, readers -- what songs do you love, and what dumb stuff did they make you do?